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RUNNING FROM BONDAGE

ENSLAVED WOMEN AND THEIR REMARKABLE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM IN REVOLUTIONARY AMERICA

Scholarly, to be sure, but the author’s archival excavation is to be commended.

Addressing the historical “silence” around Black enslaved women fugitives.

In a scholarly study derived from meticulous research, historian Bell digs deeply into advertisements for fugitive slaves that appeared in periodicals across Colonial America. In addition, she picks through an impressively varied set of other relevant primary sources “such as petitions, letters, county books, parish records, official correspondence, diaries, and plantation records,” seeking “to restore human dignity to a group of persons who have long been denied their dignity.” In a five-part study, each presenting an actual case of a fugitive woman slave, the author moves chronologically, beginning in pre-Revolutionary America, and she shows how slaves gradually responded in greater numbers to the increasingly vocal rhetoric of emancipation and fled their enslavers, in both the North and the South. The most instances of fugitive flight occurred at the height of the Revolution, writes the author, “due to the breakdown of oversight and state authority.” Many fled to the British side as a result of Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation of November 1775 as well as the Philipsburg Proclamation issued by British Army Gen. Sir Henry Clinton in June 1779, both of which “offered freedom to slaves who would aid the Loyalist cause.” The author extracts these inspiring stories from the text of the advertisements, which revealed physical and personality characteristics of the women as well as details about clothing and companions. The charts and statistics demonstrate a host of sobering facts—e.g., that despite the Revolutionary rhetoric and growing “anti-slavery sentiment,” the number of slaves in the U.S. Colonies doubled from 1760 (325,000) to 1790 (698,000). Ultimately, Bell effectively situates Black enslaved women’s flight into the larger narrative of slave resistance, providing a useful addition to the academic literature that may find a narrow audience among early American history buffs.

Scholarly, to be sure, but the author’s archival excavation is to be commended.

Pub Date: July 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-108-83154-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Cambridge Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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